Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ag-Gag Laws to Hide Factory Farms: Good News and One Huge Caution

Some great news, and a caution, from state lawmakers as the U.S. Congress remains mired in gridlock, bickering, and indecision...

"Ag -gag" bills were killed in all 11 states pondering punitive measures for truth-telling by journalists and activists about factory farming practices. 

The 11 bills died, were defeated or vetoed as 2012- 2013 legislative seasons ended in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Ag-gag laws are legislation aimed at prohibiting or severely restricting the filming or photographing of meat-industry factory farms, commonly called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). 

In 2013, CAFO-grown animals account for more than 85% of all beef, pork,  and poultry sold for human consumption in the United States.  A plethora of major public health and environmental hazards can be directly traced to CAFO's, including:
  • Contaminated meat resulting from diseased animals
  • Meat laced with antibiotics, growth hormones, many other drugs
  • Heavily contaminated area water systems
  • Deterioration of air quality, increase in greenhouse gases
  • Squalid animal living conditions
  • Unsanitary working conditions
For more, click these links to see Contaminated Meats in Grocery Markets Grow Due to Gag Laws (Fake Food Watch) and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (Wikipedia)

The "model" ag-gag law, drafted in 2002 by controversial pro-corporate lobbyist group ALEC, makes a crime of "entering an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or to defame the facility or owner."

A consortium of 70 established groups, led by the U.S. Humane Society and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have successfully fought ag-gag laws on the grounds of freedom of speech, public health, animal welfare, and environmental issues.    
The 70 citizen-activist groups represent food, farming, public health, civil liberties, environmental, animal welfare, labor, and journalism interests. 

Strict ag-gag laws remain in force in six states, all with large CAFO facilities : Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Utah.

The great news is that the political tide is turning against ag-gag laws. Thanks to public pressure and that of public interest groups, state-level politicians have been forced to ignore the demands of wealthy meat-industry donors... and instead legislate for public good! 

Commented Nancy Perry, senior vice-president of the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to Food Safely News:
"Ag-gag legislation threatens a wide array of public interests—including animal welfare and food safety—by silencing the very people in a position to document abuse.
"We hope the defeat of these 11 bills encourages lawmakers to shift their focus toward achieving accountability for those who are inflicting abuse on animals and putting consumers at risk instead of focusing on misleading efforts to suppress whistleblowers who want to expose those problems."
Caution!  Don't assume, though, that the threat from ag-gag laws has been neutered.  In Pennsylvania this year, the fracking industry attempted to have passed the nation's first ag-gag law "to criminalize anti-fracking activists who seek to expose environmental harms brought on by the gas drilling industry."  

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